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Ensiferum - Vikings unplugged

Ten years Ensiferum, and the Finnish band is far from quitting: a new CD, a new line-up and celebrating their anniversary at New Years Eve in Nosturi Club Helsinki, Markus Toivonen (guitar, vocals), Meiju Enho (synths), Petri Lindroos (vocals, guitar), Sami Hinkka (bass) and Janne Parviainen (drums) take their Folk-Death-Metal sound to the next level.

So how was the 10th anniversary show, and the worst and the best gig in your career so far?
Petri: Well, I think this 10th anniversary show might be the best so far
Sami: One of the best
Petri: Definitely, and the audience was great, we kicked their ass, they kicked ours. The worst show was in Spain, everything was totally fucked up over there, the PA system started burning, monitors ...
Sami: ... monitors didn´t work ...
Petri: ... the electric shock destroyed our keyboard ...
Sami: ... andsoon andsoon ...
Petri: The drum monitor also caught fire, and I told the local stage crew „check it out, the monitor is on fire, it´s smoking“, and they said „no no it´s the smoke machine on the floor“
Sami: They were laughing (laughs)
Petri: Yeah, laughing, „no problem no problem“ and I was like „Yeah right“. Then I told the drummer „hey dude, your monitor is on fire“, and he ran away from there, „fuck, it´s on fire“ . So that is one of the worst gigs...
Sami: It was a good experience, though.
Petri: Yeah
Sami: Yeah
Petri: The party was great, after that.
Sami: The best gig, is hard to say, but the best audiences so far have been in Russia, Slovakia and ...
Petri: Slovenia, and here in Finland, I gotta say.

I heard there were lots of Cowboy hats also in the New Year´s audience. Perhaps you can tell the story of your fashion statement ...
(Sami laughs in the background all the time)
Petri: I bought it on the first Ensiferum tour somewhere in Germany from a gas station, like 20 Euro or something. We were drunk then, and it looked cool that time ...
Sami: That time, yeah,
Petri: And all the people on tour in the bus, the crew, the Wake and Finntroll guys, say „are you going to wear that hat for the rest of the tour, because you look like a fucking gay?“ I said „yeah“, and have been wearing it since then. And I will. (laughs)

You need a replacement? Rumour has it that hat is pretty errr worn out already ...
Petri: No, it just lost all its shapes, doesn´t look so Cowboy anymore, more like a pancake (laughs)

But you´re in good company, both McCoys (Andy, Hanoi Rocks; Carl, Fields of the Nephilim) could not be recognized without their cowboy hats ...
Sami (to Petri): Perhaps you should wear it all the time, and also those slippers
Petri: Yeah, I bought them at the airport in Amsterdam, when we came from Metal Meeting ... I found slippers like „cow“ (Sami laughs out loud) same as the hat, you know, I just had to buy it ...
Sami: Collect the whole set (laughs)
Petri: Yeah, with pants and jacket and hat, I´ll be a Cowboy pimp daddy or something

Luckily your music doesn´t sound like American country ...
Petri: I just wear it during the first song „Iron“, it´s more like a Cowboy song, it has some Western influences, so it fits for that.

But actually, there´s a whole new genre now, you and bands like Finntroll, Ajattara, Korpiklaani or Moonsorrow that play Metal with Finnish folk music influences - is it about Finnish identity?
Petri (to Sami): You tell.
Sami: Difficult question. Of course we are proud – at least I am, and I suppose we all are proud to be Finnish. Finnish mythology is very interesting and why shouldn´t we proud of it then.

Still there´s only one song directly referring to the Kalevala (= Finn. mythology), „Old Man“, so what are your main influences?
Petri: Lyrics are more or less about Vikings, there are Scandinavian and a little bit of Western influences
Sami: A lot of fantasy (laughs)
Petri: A lot of fantasy and Goblins, Heroes in Dreams... more fantasy that doesn´t go straight with Kalevala or something more specific. Heroic Metal, as Markus (= Ensiferum-mastermind) said. Write that!

Moonsorrow, for example, are big fans of Lord of the Rings...
Sami: Yes, Lord of the Rings, at the moment I read Narnia, and Stephen King´s „Dark Tower“ is waiting at home. I definitely like fantasy literature.

Fantasy literature is usually called „escapist“, so do you want to escape from something?
Petri: Yeah, in a way, maybe
Sami: With lyrics – it´s good to have a second meaning, something behind those exact words you can find there, but you can also (shouts) aaah yeah battle and blood and guts – that´s my opinion.

The guys became a bit more talkative about the promo-foto-shooting:
Petri: The location is a very beautiful place, it´s an old Viking village, one big mansion with fire indoors, and the beds are like the Vikings used to have. There is also a Viking boat ...
Sami: Very authentic, and there´s also a museum telling about Viking history
Petri: ... like in a nutshell, put all together in a few boxes, like mini-tours – there was also one Viking throwing up, that was pretty cool
Sami: (laughs) yeah one was drinking, the other was throwing up, that was very good. And also some authentic items found there
Petri: A rune-stone, all kinds of authentic Viking swords and axes, and clothes. And we borrowed the stuff, because all that we got sucked...
Sami: Not all
Petri: Not all, but the clothes sucked – baaaad, big time
Sami: A beautiful place. Rosala Viking Center, go there!

So could you imagine to live Viking style for a while?
Petri: Yeah why not? Would be cool.
Sami: Personally, I think we should have a rehearsal room there.
Petri: Yeah – but we could only play unplugged.
Sami: Yeah!
Petri: But then it would be more authentic. Vikings didn´t have electric guitars
Sami: I don´t see any problem with that. It would actually be pretty cool. But – not possible...
Petri: Would be cool if we had also all the meat we could eat, so we wouldn´t have to hunt them down...

But that was the point, Viking style like hunting, fishing...
Petri: I guess we would be pretty hungry all the time ...
Sami: Eating each other
Petri: Cannibal Vikings, eating the weak
Sami: Can I order Pizza somewhere?

The new album „Dragonheads“ – what´s different, what´s new?
Petri: We recorded two old songs from the Demo compilation that was released last year, „White Storm“ and „Warrior´s Quest“, and one new song „Dragonheads“ ...
Sami: It´s about Vikings (= their ships had dragonheads), it´s not about dudes with heads of a dragon, you morons! Someone put in our guestbook that it´s a stupid name, because „dragon is fantasy stuff, and head is part of your body, so dragonhead, what kind of shit is that?“ Use your brains, idiot!! Okay, just wanted to say that...
Petri: ... And we did one cover song, Amorphis „Into hiding“
Sami: A little tribute, because Amorphis is one of the band´s main influences; then this medley ...
Petri: Yeah, three Finnish almost traditional songs, one is not so old yet ... „Dragonheads“ sounds like the new Ensiferum...
Sami: I think the sound is better, the whole band sounds better
Petri: Because there have been changes, three new bandmembers – me, Sami and Janne - since the last album, that gives a new sound also to it.

Isn´t it a bit complicated sometimes to be in two bands (Petri also sings in Norther)?
Petri: Not so far, but I don´t know, let´s see what the future brings. Well, if we get tours with Norther, and a lot of festival shows during the summer ... actually we, Ensiferum, have a lot of shows during the summer, well, so I´m not gonna be home so much but I don´t care. I was born to rock

But what´s the difference for you, as a singer for both bands? For me as outsider it seems you have more fun with Ensiferum on stage...
Petri: I don´t have to sing so much with Ensiferum, because Markus and Sami do all the clean vocals; and with Norther I sing like all the time, so I cannot move away from the microphone. And if I do it, it´s usually such a short time I can only take a sip of water, then back to the microphone... with Ensiferum I have a lot more time to be off microphone, so I can just...
Sami: ... hang around ...
Petri: ... hang around and play guitar and act like a rockstar (laughs)

Back to business – which bad or good experiences did you have?
Petri: There is no business like show business. Actually the worst thing – gigs are booked like six months before, and it´s not sure until like you done it, that´s the shittiest point, and also those fucking record deals. You really have to know what you´re doing or else you´re getting nothing...
Sami: You´re buttfucked, if you don´t know
Petri: Yeah exactly.

So it´s true, as soon as you start a band you should have an attorney among your friends or family, or study the law yourself?
Petri: Yeah, it´s not a bad option to be an attorney, and you play in a band (laughter) Because all those legal sentences, they mean another thing when I read and understand it, like „this is not so bad“, and then someone tells me like „it doesn´t mean that at all“. OK, cool... that´s the shittiest aspect, all that legal stuff for everything. If you talk with people being on different labels, it´s the same problem everywhere - so every label sucks, in a way.

Another big topic – downloading music from the internet. What do you think, as musicians, about that?
Petri: It sucks, of course. For example Norther´s new album is already in the net, and the album isn´t even out yet.
Sami: So thank you, you fuckface...
Petri: Asshole!
Sami: ... who put it there
Petri: That always happens when promo copies leave from Spinefarm to Europe...
Sami: I hope you die in pain!
Petri: And agony, and you live eternally in hell! (Sami laughs) But there is nothing we could do about it, and nobody knows anything... so I don´t like it so much.
Sami: Me neither, but there is one good point: it´s very easy to find new bands that way, and if you find a good band, you could buy the record and support it
Petri: I believe there are many good persons in the world, so they check out bands from the internet, and then buy the album. That´s what I hope for ... I never downloaded anything from the internet.

After consenting that Finland is a cool place for Metal bands because of all the live Clubs we tackle an important topic - Heavy Metal Karaoke:
Petri: Been there since day one, been there very many times
Sami: He loves it
Petri: Some people don´t like it so much but it´s supposed to be fun, you don´t have to take it so seriously. If a guy who can blow maybe 2,5 ‰ wants to do Judas Priest „Breaking the Law“ – that cannot sound good...
Sami: Just having a good time!
Petri: Yeah I hope (laughter) but people don´t come if they don´t like it. So stay away!

Finally, you have a weird tour story?
Sami: In Holland I went for a walk in the morning, the bus was at a parking lot, we spent the night there, and in the morning sun was shining, so nice, I went for a walk, and bought some ice cream, I come back and there is no bus anymore. (laughter) That was pretty funny in a way...
Petri: That kind of thing has happened, I think, in every band being on tour. Going to a gas station, bus leaves, and someone comes out of the toilet „fuck, it happened again“. The worst case I ever heard, don´t remember which band, one of the guys was left at the gas station, he had no money, no cellphone, no papers, he had nothing. The bus went on like 300 kilometers before they noticed „damn, one guy is missing“ (laughter in the background) and they drove back, and the guy was just sitting at the table waiting like 5, 6, 7 hours hoping that they come back... they came back and he was really pissed.
Sami: You were left behind once, too, during a tour...
Petri: Oh yeah, it was at Summerbreeze Festival, after STALKER Gibberish with Finntroll... we drank way too much, thanks to Samira, and I end up sleeping in the wrong room, and there was another Pete also in the same room, Markus was knocking on the door in the morning „is Pete there? - Yeah“, but it was the other Pete, I was in the backroom, and nobody remembered I was over there. So they had to leave to catch the flight, and when I woke up they had already left and were too close to the airport, no time to come and pick me up again. So I was like „OK I try to catch some other flight then,“ and I came back with Finntroll guys, I had to borrow money from Wilska (= Finntroll-singer) to get home ... (laughter) and I try never to end up in the wrong room again...

Author: Klaudia Weber, Photos: Klaudia Weber, Toni Härkönen hfr.
Date: 2006-01-23

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